Director Marc Webb is nothing if not versatile. After all, he’s responsible for the giddy romantic romp “500 Days of Summer” starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, both of Andrew Garfield’s “Spider-Man” movies, and the 2017 dramatic comedy “Gifted”. He’s also busy, with “The Only Living Boy in New York” (Amazon Studios/Roadside Attractions) being his second film released this year.
Taking a page from the vintage Woody Allen handbook, complete with narration, “The Only Living Boy in New York” is a mash note to the city and the people who inhabit it. The people in this particular movie include nerdy Thomas (hot Callum Turner) and his semi-girlfriend Mimi (Kiersey Clemons). He’s adrift after being discouraged from being a writer by his successful publisher father Ethan (Pierce Brosnan). She’s a clerk in a hi, used bookstore and she’s planning to move to Zagreb to work on a project, an announcement that takes Thomas completely by surprise. Further complicating things is Mimi’s itinerant junkie boyfriend.
Returning home to his Lower East Side apartment, Thomas encounters bedraggled new (and nosy) neighbor W.F. (Jeff Bridges), perched on the stairs. Before you know it, Thomas is spilling his guts to W.F. about Mimi. Shortly thereafter, while out with Mimi, Thomas discovers that Ethan is cheating on Thomas’ delicate artist mother Judith (out actress Cynthia Nixon). The mistress in question is the considerably-younger-than-his-father Johanna (Kate Beckinsale), an in-demand freelance editor.
Having accepted the fact that Mimi is not interested in being a couple, Thomas embarks on a sexual relationship with Johanna. Some of these details he shares with W.F. who has taken an increasing interest in the day to day minutiae of Thomas life. There is, of course, an ulterior motive to the older man’s interest and we slowly begin to unravel the mystery, beginning with the revelation of W.F.’s true identity – he’s the well-published alcoholic writer named Julian and he has a connection to Thomas’ family.
“The Only Living Boy in New York” is a well-intentioned rom-com with more than a few twists. It’s also fun in the way it inspires a game of spotting the familiar faces of indie cinema, including John Bolger (playing gay again, as he did in “Parting Glances”), Anh Duong (from “High Art”), Wallace Shawn (“My Dinner With Andre”), and look, it’s Debi Mazar. Ultimately, the use of the titular Simon & Garfunkel tune lacks the impact that it did when Ryan Murphy utilized it in his “The Normal Heart” adaptation. Regardless, it’s an admirable effort and not a bad way to spend 88 minutes. Grade: B